What’s in Your Wallet: How 11 Marketers Budget for SEO Tools

SEO tools are the key to success in the world of online marketing. However, since money doesn’t grow on trees, budgeting for SEO tools should be an integral part of any company’s marketing strategy. To get an idea of how the pros are doing it, I asked some internet marketers how they budget for SEO tools.

Tony AdamTony Adam – Founder, CEO at Eventup

“It really depends on the client or project. I tend to look at how simple the project is and if I’m just using the basics and free tools (e.g. Google Keyword Planner) or if it’s a larger project where I need enterprise data. Typically, I start with Authority Labs and Moz, because it sets my baseline, and I go from there. I would say I spend no more than $250 monthly on tools for a project, on average.”


Alan BleiweissAlan Bleiweiss – Forensic SEO Consultant at Alan Bleiweiss Consulting

“I don’t budget for SEO tools per se. I have several I already pay for to help me in my audit work, and from time to time I reevaluate if I think another tool will help me be more efficient, or provide more insights for clients in various situations.

From there, I consider whether the cost of the tool is worth the knowledge and increased efficiency or is worth the bother. That’s my entire ‘budgeting’ process for tools.”


Michael BonfilsMichael Bonfils – President at SEM International

“We assess every tool to make sure it’s a fit for the client. Enterprise clients usually see the value in broad, high-level reporting tools. Smaller clients tend to see the value in more strategic tools, which will give them an edge and insight into a specific niche. Many of our clients are agencies; in those cases we utilize their tools.”


jon_cooperJon Cooper – Founder of Hyperlynx Media

“Budgeting for about 80% of the SEO tools out there can be done simply by answering one question – do we generate more profits with it? Yes, there will be some management tools that you may need purely for scalability reasons, which are difficult to measure the ROI of in the short-term. However, for the vast majority of them, it hasn’t been difficult for me to nail each tool’s value down to a quantifiable number that makes the decision process easy.”


Annie CushingAnnie Cushing – Independent Consultant

“I budget for SEO tools according to the urgency of the data needs they meet. Tasks I do often, like data gathering for site audits, get star treatment as they are the most essential to my success as a forensic marketer.”


victoria_edwardsVictoria Edwards – Digital Strategist at Florida Blue

“While I am on the content side of my industry, I heavily focus on SEO. I’m constantly trying to promote the benefit of SEO and show that we need to invest in the proper tools to help us determine what we need to improve on. I am fooling around with Screaming Frog and may purchase a license, but as of now I rely heavily on Google Analytics and Web Master Tools. 2014 is being budgeted for now, and I’m trying to see about getting another tool, but basically just a lot of praising SEO for now and how we need to focus heavily on it, no matter what department you’re in!”


melissa_fachMelissa Fach – Moz Associate and Independent Consultant

“I don’t think you can make money in this business and/or be effective without tools, so they are part of monthly costs; I treat them like the electric bill. With each monthly client there is a cost that technically goes toward tools. The more clients you have the more tools cost. The word ‘how’ isn’t in it for me; ‘must’ is a better fit.”


jon_henshaw_smallJon Henshaw – Co-Founder of Raven Internet Marketing Tools

“When your budget is tight, SEO tools can seem very expensive. However, if you pick the right tool, it should easily pay for itself. For example, what’s cheaper? Paying someone hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of dollars to aggregate data and create monthly reports or paying $99 for an SEO tool that can create all of the reports for you?

The same is true with SEO tools that provide unique data. If a $49 per month tool can provide insightful data that can then be applied to profitable marketing tactics, then you should be paying for that tool. Ultimately, regardless of which SEO tools one uses, the cost of those tools should be factored into the service fees for clients or the budget for an in-house marketing department.”


jordan_kasteler_newJordan Kasteler – Digital Marketing Strategist at Vizion Interactive

“At Vizion Interactive we work the cost of the tools into our hourly rate for all clients. We look at the cost of tools and compare that to time savings. If it can save us more time than our hourly rate is doing it manually then we’re likely to sign up for that tool.”


melanie_mitchellMelanie Mitchell – Senior Digital Marketing Strategist 

“We have a yearly SEO tools budget where we evaluate several areas:

  • Cost
  • Benefit/Differentiator – either proprietary or can build custom data and reports to differentiate us
  • Overlap of reports across tools – in order to make decisions on if we still need to invest or can cut
  • Coverage – can it cover multiple media outlets (display, SEM, social, etc.) for large programs to look at consumer journey

We don’t silo SEO, as we feel it is important to understand what the consumer is doing overall and where to better understand the areas to place investments to test, optimize and scale. SEO tools are roughly 15%-20% of our overall media tool investment. We then submit the complete list of all media tools with monthly/yearly costs, ranked in priority order, to finance for approval. Some tools are an investment to use in pitches, some are used as a value-add for clients, while others may be an additional charge to the client.”


andrew_norcrossAndrew Norcross  Lead Developer at Reactiv Studios

“Same as any other budget item: if the tool matters, I find the money. Beyond that, I look for tools that have some stability, backed by solid support, and give me the ability to get data out if need be.”


How do you budget for SEO tools?


How to Create an Interactive Dashboard

Interactive dashboards are basically the sliced bread of data visualization. They are dynamic, easy to use, and compatible with Mac and PC. This tutorial is best applied to clients who are tracking a domain’s rankings in multiple locations. But, these principles can be used to make many interactive dashboards. This tutorial was heavily inspired by Annie Cushing, author of Annielytics, and her interactive chart blog post. Alright, let’s get started!

If you would rather watch the tutorial, here it is:

For you readers out there, carry on. There will be links to the specific part of the video tutorial for each of these steps.

Collecting the Data

I first started this dashboard by exporting the ranking data from my grouped site Olive Garden. Once you’ve collected the ranking data from each of your cities, compile that data into one document.

step1_compile exported raw data

Next, grab the Keywords, Google rank, and Search Volume for each of the cities and add that data to one table in your Raw Data tab. Pro Tip: The Raw Data tab is sacrosanct, it should be kept free of formulas and charts. Save that for the Calculated Data tab.

step3_raw data tab

Calculate the Data

The first step in calculating the data is creating a list of cities. You can type this out manually, use a VLOOKUP, or just copy and paste.

step4_list of keywords

The second step is a little bit more labor intensive. First make sure that you have the Developer tab open. You have to select this tab to viewable through File > Options > Customize Ribbon. Then you will need to create a Combo Box using the Form Controls.

step5_make combo box_step2

Once you have drawn out the Combo Box, right click to select Format Control.

step6_select formatting combo box_step2

Now here is the fun part. Under the Control tab, select the Input range to be the list of cities you made earlier. (That will be the list that your Combo Box shows.) Next, select your output, or Cell link. Lastly, change the Drop down lines to 4 (because we only have four cities).

step7_inputs combo box_step2

The third step is to put in an INDEX formula. This formula will allow you to look up the Cell Link we set up earlier, and output from our Cities list. This means that when you select Chicago, IL on the Dashboard tab, it will output the text, “Chicago, IL” in that cell.

step8_index formula_step3

Collect Location Specific Data

Bring over the data from the Raw Data tab with a SUMIFS formula. Never worked with SUMIFS? No problem, just follow this handy-dandy image. I would recommend referencing the video tutorial for this bit.

SUMIFS have two criteria that need to be met to output the data you’re looking for. The first criteria in our SUMIFS will be finding the Rank number for the Keyword “italian restaurant”.

step9_sumifs rank_step4

The second criteria will look to make sure that Keyword matches the location in cell F4 (where our INDEX formula is).

step10_sumifs rank_step4

The second SUMIFS formula is exactly the same as the first except for in the “sum_range” you select “Table1[Volume]” instead of Rank.

Concatenation Formula

In this step you will perform a simple concatenation formula. It will combine the text string “Keyword Ranks & Search Volume for ” and the city that the user will select from the Combo Box (which is in cell F4).

step11_sumifs rank_step5

Create the Chart

Create the chart by navigating to the Insert tab and selecting Recommended Charts > All Charts > Combo Charts. Make the Rank data a Line with Markers chart, and the Volume a Clustered Column chart. Also, move the Rank to a Secondary Axis. Move the chart to the Dashboard tab.

step12_creating the chart_step6

Format the Chart

Now that the Rank data is on a secondary axis, reverse the order of the values. This will allow you to view the Rank data in the order that one is positive, and 100 is negative.

step13_format axis_step6

I like to remove the line and just leave the markers. You can do this by right-clicking on the line and clicking “Format Data Series”. Also, add in the Primary and Secondary Vertical Axis Titles. That way we know which axis is Rank data and which is Volume data.

step14_format lines_marker_step6

Add the Chart Title

This is where the chart title we made in the Calculated Data tab will come into play. We want our chart title to automatically update when a user selects a different city.

step15_format lines_marker_step6


Congratulations on making your first Interactive Dashboard!

Grouping and Syncing Domains on Authority Labs

Grouping and Syncing are two great features that have been released with our new interface. These are options that are especially helpful for accounts with multiple domains. Grouping is used to organize the domains, while Syncing is used for concatenating keywords across more than one domain.

Grouping Domains

Grouping domains will allow you to perform actions to multiple domains in that group. You can group domains together by clicking the check box next to the domains. Select two or more domains and you will see the domain actions panel on the left of your screen. Check out our support page for a full video tutorial on how to group domains.


You will have the option to Group, Ungroup or Delete those domains. Click “Group” and those domains will then be lumped together on the dashboard from then on. You also have the option to name the group. I named mine “Shopping”, and it’s as simple as that.



Syncing Domains

After grouping your domains you have the option to sync them. When the domains are synced so are the keywords. So anytime you add or delete keywords in a synced group it will be reflected in each domain in that group. Check out our support page for a full video tutorial on how to sync domains.


NOTE: To unsync your domains click on the syncing button again so that it turns from green to grey.


An awesome aspect of syncing a group is that you get to compare the domains in the group. This comes in handy when you’re trying the track out a domain preforms in different city.


To navigate to this option just click on the group name.


Here I am able to compare keywords for Olive Garden in Orlando, Phoenix and other cities or zip codes. But, you can also compare competing domains with this option, as long as they are in the same synced group.

How These Options Can Help You

Grouping can help organize your domains, whether you use this to group similar domains, competing domains, or even the same domain in different locations. Syncing will allow you to concatenate all keywords over multiple domains. It also allows you to compare multiple keyword rankings across the domains in the group. I would highly recommend syncing and grouping some of your domains.

Training Videos Released

These past few weeks have been very exciting for the AL team! With the release of the new interface and now we are excited to announce the release of a series of training videos. The videos are 1-5 minute screencasts on how to work with the new interface and more videos are on the way.

Authority Labs wants all of our customers to have all the help they need. Please let us know what you think of the videos and let us know what you need more help with. We appreciate the feedback!

Here are some of the latest topics released:

The new tutorial video list is available on the Support Page and future videos will be listed there as well. You can view all of our videos in one place on the Tutorial Videos Playlist via YouTube.

tutorial videos


6 Fatal Customer Relations Mistakes


Customer relations is one of the most important parts of any business, and there’s plenty of room to make mistakes. When customer service goes bad, the entire company can quickly feel the effects. It can be challenging to bounce back from a bad customer service event, because the company’s reputation has been marred.

Customer service shouldn’t be a gamble; in fact, the owners and managers are in complete control. It’s too easy to let things slip through the cracks, however. Consider these six all-to-common fatal customer relations mistakes. Even one of these gaffes can be enough to send a company down the drain.

1. Poor Training

Customer service issues are almost always the fault of management, and it starts with poor (or zero) training. Every new employee needs to be trained on proper customer service, and veteran employees can benefit from ongoing training. Just because a person was a killer customer service rep at a previous company doesn’t mean he’ll know how to handle things in the new position. Make sure training SOP is in place, and follow it to the letter.

2. No Followup

Often, customers reach out to a company because they want to be heard and appreciated. All that’s required is speedy followup and a rep who truly cares about their satisfaction. An ignored email, unreturned phone call, or any other form of professional cold shoulder doesn’t just have an impact on that one customer. With so many options for online reviews these days, more customers are heading online to complain when they’re ignored. And that can cost you dearly.

3. A Bad Attitude

Smiling over the phone really does work, and customers can instantly sense when a CSR doesn’t want to talk to them. A single morning of poor mood can spiral into a customer relations disaster when it doesn’t need to be that way. Remind employees daily that their attitude makes all the difference, and encourage mental health days (preferably paid) when they’re really necessary. When the going gets tough for your CSRs, help them separate work and personal life.

4. “Please hold …”

Customers want to talk to a live person without having to know a secret code to make it happen. Similarly, getting handed from one department to another makes your business look disorganized and seem as if nobody wants to help customers. A quick response time is essential, and this is something that needs to happen from management down.

5. No Solution

Ideally, CSRs should always have a solution handy. If they get stuck, they should turn to a supervisor. No customer deserves to hear “I don’t know,” or “What do you want me to do about it?” That’s not for the customer to figure out; it’s for the CSR to deliver. Businesses should have protocols for every situation, but if a CSR can’t find a solution he or she should do everything possible to get help.

6. An Upsell

Upsells are only appropriate in very specific circumstances. If someone is calling because she lost her debit card, she’s already frantic and doesn’t want to be sold another savings account. Focus on service first, not selling, and try to keep the two separated. Customers will appreciate it, and they’re more likely to reach out (possibly for future sales) if they don’t feel like they’re walking into an old-school used car lot.

Reaching out to customers is both a skill and a talent. It’s a requirement if businesses want to grow, and it should be at the forefront of customer service. Whether it involves following up on a request or making sure the customer is truly satisfied, you should reach out without any ulterior motive in mind.

4 Reasons Google Plus for Small Business Is Required

Little more than a year ago, small businesses could argue that they didn’t need Google Plus (Google+). The social networking site just didn’t have the users and activity of Facebook, so it wasn’t worth the effort. Things have changed since then. If you doubt that, just consider these 4 reasons all small businesses need Google Plus.

1. Google Plus Integrates Other Google Features

Image via Flickr by Telendro

Google is the only company that currently has the ability to integrate hundreds of features into one social network.

You know the frustration of finding a restaurant on Facebook, but having no way to get directions from your house to the restaurant without first copying the address and going to another website (probably Google Maps)?

That doesn’t exist with Google Plus because Google Maps is right there for you to use.

In a world where customers would rather find a new business than go through the steps of finding your location, it makes sense to have a presence on Google Plus.

2. Google Hangouts Reduce Travel Expenses

A small business that has offices in several cities faces a difficult problem: how do you coordinate activities between groups without spending a lot of money on travel?

Google Plus has the solution with Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts makes it easy for you to host brainstorming sessions and video conferences without wasting money. You don’t have to pay for plane tickets, hotel rooms, or per diem expenses. As long as you have a webcam, you’re good to go.

3. Google Plus is Growing, and It’s Just Getting Started

As of June 2012, Gmail had about 425 million users. Google could have easily forced all of those users into becoming Google Plus users. Although the company definitely gave Gmail account users plenty of opportunities to join, but the company never forced its devotees to do so.

Why does this matter? Because it shows that Google Plus isn’t interested in grabbing a huge chunk of the social media world as quickly as possible. It’s quite comfortable sitting back, building its applications, and letting people come to it.

Google Plus is just getting started. It makes sense for small businesses to get in now before the service experiences a big explosion. It’s coming. The question is whether you will get on before or after.

4. Joining Google Plus Gives You More Authority

Google Plus might not have as many users as Facebook, but the people who have joined know what they’re doing.

More than any company, Google determines which websites succeed and fail. When’s the last time you used Yahoo! to search the Web? Joining Google Plus could, very soon, play a part in how your page gets ranked.

Google recently added blogger authority to its ranking algorithm so that popular writers have more influence than those who don’t publish often.

By joining Google Plus, bloggers can help Google keep track of their posts. That helps small businesses improve their page rankings. It’s a little sneaky, but this will have a big influence over who joins Google Plus in the upcoming year.

What are some other reasons you think small businesses should join Google Plus?